Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Senior Pets and Arthritis

November is known among veterinary circles, as “Senior Pet Month” so I thought it would be a good time to blog about senior pets.  Seniors are some of my favorite patients to treat. I think its because we now have many great options available for treating seniors for a variety of chronic problems that come with age. Working with owners of senior pets is especially rewarding and I love to hear progress reports about pets that have renewed energy and are able to jump and run like they haven’t in months or years. 

So what exactly qualifies as “senior” when we are talking about a cat or a dog? There are a variety of charts available and it does depend a little bit on the breed. Generally for cats I would consider above the age of 8 years to be senior. As for dogs smaller breeds can often live up to 15 or 16 so senior is usually about 8 and up.  For large and giant breeds some of the senior health problems develop a bit sooner so we might call 6 and up senior depending on the breed.  Of course each individual ages a bit differently so there is some variation.  If you are wondering about rabbits their average life span is 8-10 years (though some live longer!) so 6 years would also qualify as the beginning of their “golden years”.

This is my dog "Jaeger". He is 6.5 years old and I call him "late middle aged" As a larger breed he is prone to joint problems

Today I will outline one of the most common health problems in our senior patients:

Osteoarthritis (aka arthritis or degenerative joint disease):
Many people are familiar with this because it affects us (people) too! Osteoarthritis results from damage to the cartilage inside the joints. In senior pets this can be from wear and tear with age and is made worse if a pet is overweight or has any other joint problems (such as a torn cruciate ligament for example).  It is estimated that about 20% of all dogs suffer from arthritis (more would be in the senior category) and in senior cats the estimate ranges from 30-90%.  Signs in dogs include limping, difficulty rising, lagging behind on walks, and difficulty with stairs and jumping. In cats the signs are subtle but can include reluctance to jump up or down, changes to grooming patterns or just changes in behavior such as acting more withdrawn.   

When dealing with the early stages of arthritis I usually recommend starting pets on a joint supplement or a joint support diet. Green lipped muscle powder and fish oils are anti-inflammatory and have been shown to help with mobility in dogs and cats.  I like to start with supplementing the diet, as this is a safe option with few side effects. The joint support diets have high levels of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids as well as glucosamine and often also green-lipped muscle powders.  We find our patients do better on these diets, possibly because the supplements are best absorbed from food as opposed to in a pill.  There are also a few nutraceutical options that are showing promise in treating arthritis and can be worth asking your veterinarian about. I have used the product Cartrophen Vet in my own pets with great success.  These can also be a good option when looking for a treatment with very low risk of side-effects. 

 When diet and supplements are not enough we turn to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as Meloxicam, Deramaxx and Rimadyl. They are very effective pain relievers and can really improve an animal’s quality of life. Like any drug they can have some mild side effects and long-term can have effects on the liver and the kidneys as well.  We will recommend blood work before and during treatment just to monitor organ function to make sure treatment is safe for your pet.  If a pet has liver or kidney disease then we can use different classes of pain medications to help with quality of life. The advantage of the anti-inflammatory class over other pain medications is that they actually work at the level of the joint and modify and slow the disease process rather than just treating the pain.

One important thing to note is that human over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen (Aleve), are not safe or recommended for cats and dogs and they can cause serious harm if given at the wrong dose. Don’t try to substitute a human medication that you think might be similar, as dogs and cats do not process drugs in the same way that the human body does.  Even aspirin can cause problems and there are safer more effective options for your pet. Check with your veterinarian before giving any pain medications!

For most of my patients, we are able to safely use a combination of the treatments I discussed to help keep them active and enjoying life for much longer. For me, helping to relieve chronic pain and get an animal back to enjoying life like they used to is one of the best parts of my job. 

Thanks for reading!
Dr Ingrid 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Preparing for Winter

Well its coming down to that time again - WINTER.  Just a few reminders for our pet families when the cold weather returns. 

If you have a dog, you may want to consider buying a coat to help keep the chill out.  There are so many stores that carry dog coats so the selection is wonderful.  Its not only the coats that help them feel less chilly, but the booties are definitely a good thing to invest  (if your pet will keep them on).  The booties are always a good thing to have as it will not only keep the chill off their little feet but will also help to decrease the chance of frostbite.  If you dog just gets the booties off and will not wear them, we suggest that after any walk, make sure to check the underside of your dogs paws for ice build up as it can cause irritation and we don't want your little one or big one to feel any discomfort.

If you have a dog that stays outside, please make sure there is enough bedding in the dog house for warmth and a that clean fresh water is given every day - REMEMBER TO CHECK TO MAKE SURE IT DOES NOT FREEZE.  If the temperature is really low, ensure that you have another option of keeping your dog somewhere indoors if needed.

With Winter and Christmas just around the corner (Christmas is only 42 days away) be sure to make sure the Chocolate is put away.  Chocolate toxicity is a true emergency so please seek Veterinary care if your pet ingests any type of chocolate.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

One of the Most Important Things to Teach Your Dog

After working in the veterinary field for 10 years the importance of kennel training or “crate training” a dog has become more and more apparent to me.  A lot of new puppy or new dog owners say that they don’t intend to kennel their dog when they’re not home and so they don’t think they need to train their dog to go into a kennel.  There are so many other important reasons your dog should be comfortable being in a kennel beyond where you plan to leave him when you aren’t at home.  I like to break things down into lists so here are the top 3 reasons you need to kennel train your dog or new puppy.

1) All dogs deserve to have a safe space: Dogs are naturally den animals. They have an instinct to go to a den where they can feel safe and secure and where nobody else can bother them. That is what the kennel should be for your dog. It’s his happy place. A kennel is a better option than just a bed in an open part of the house because if you close the kennel door it is secure and no other people or pets can get in. This is especially useful if you have small children or other pets. The dog can go there to get a break and have alone time if he needs it. Even if you don’t have,  or plan to have children the kennel is great if you are having visitors or house guests that may scare your dog or make him uncomfortable. When training a dog to a kennel the goal should always be that your dog has a positive experience in the kennel. That means you never put the dog into the kennel as punishment or force the dog into the kennel against his will. The kennel should be set up with a comfy bed or soft blankets inside and when your dog or puppy goes inside on their own they should be rewarded with a favorite toy or treat.  I feed my dog all his meals inside his kennel to reinforce the positive association he has with going inside and believe me he goes bounding into his kennel on a daily basis.

2) You may need to kennel your dog for health reasons: I know this seems far off, especially if you just got a new puppy but sometimes when a dog gets injured it needs to be on kennel rest in order to heal properly. We see this most often when a dog needs to have surgery on a leg or sometimes after a spay or other abdominal surgery. Post-surgery dogs may need to be kennel rested for between 1 and 8 weeks depending on the type of surgery. If your dog is not used to the kennel this can be extremely stressful on both you and him. Sometimes we see patients that need to be sedated daily after surgery in order to keep them quiet and rested in their kennels because they are anxious and not accustomed to it. If you kennel train your dog, especially as a puppy, your dog will feel content and secure during the post surgery recovery period (and no need for sedatives!). Even though he may get a little bored or stir crazy it will be nothing compared to a dog that had never had to be kenneled before.

3) You may need to kennel your dog when you travel: This one is pretty straight forward but if you go away on vacation chances are high you may need to kennel your dog. If he stays at a boarding facility or daycare he will likely be kenneled at least during the night. If you are  looking for a friend or relative to look after your dog when you are away it will also be much easier on the person looking after your dog if they have the option of kenneling him if needed.

The biggest misconception I hear about dogs and kenneling is that people seem to think putting a dog in a kennel is mean or a punishment but this doesn’t have to be the case. If you train your dog the right way he or she will learn to love the kennel.  You can still leave your dog out during the day while you are at work but at least you know you can use the kennel if the need arises. Your dog will be more confident knowing he has a safe place all to himself in the house.   

Ok,  I have convinced you to kennel train your dog right?

Here is a helpful link on how to successfully train your dog or puppy to the crate from the humane society of the United States

Thanks for reading!

Dr Ingrid 
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Only 1 more day to go!!! Check out these Halloween specialty desserts that will be available at the Bake Sale! Witches Fingers, Skeleton graves and Screamy Eye pies Oh My! Don't forget to come out and Vote for your favorite Employee costumes!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
2 days to go!!! Check out some of the baking that is going on for our amazing Bake Sale! Many Thanks to our Friends at Royal Canin for their donation of 3 free months of Veterinary prescription food for 1 cat and 1 dog. We will be raffling these two prizes off! Tickets will be 1 for 2$, 3 for 5$ or 15 for 10$. We are looking forward to seeing you soooooon!!!!!!! Happy Halloween!!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Winrose Animal Hospital Hallowscream Party

Hi Folks!
Just over 1 week to go!
We are working on our ghoulish decorations for the party!
We are looking forward to seeing all the cute costumes!!
Just a reminder the clinic will be closed Friday October 23 5-6pm in preparation for our event at 6pm!
Friday October 23 6-8pm first come first serve!
Cash donation 10$ gets you 5 digital prints!
Bake Sale ( Cash only)
Prizes awarded for Best Pet Costume and Best Owner Costume
Come out and vote for your favorite employee costume!
We look forward to seeing you!!!!
Thursday, September 10, 2015

Inaugural Halloween Pet Photos

This year we have decided to do something new for our annual fund-raiser for the Guide Dogs Association. In lieu of our Pet Photos with Santa this year we will be throwing a Halloween party complete with costume contests, a bake sale and of course adorable, seasonal, pet Halloween photos.  See the poster below for details. Can't wait to see you there!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cat Corner #2

A Vet's tips on feeding your cats

This week on the blog we continue to look at ways you can take your cat’s health to the next level, adding extra energy and years on to your cat’s life. I want to talk about how to feed your cat to keep them happy and healthy. There are a couple areas I want to address when looking at feeding cats. First is when or how often you feed them. 

In the wild, cats will eat up to ten small meals a day, hunting and eating on their own.  Some owners may have heard this and think that means they should leave food out for their cat to access at all times. This is NOT the best way to feed a house cat. There are a few cats who may be able to self-regulate if given free access to food but the vast majority of cats with over-eat and become over-weight or obese.   So the biggest thing to take away from this is that cats should be fed meals! I feed Bender 2 meals a day and he sometimes gets a light “snack” or treat between his two meals. 
Bender relaxing at home in-between meals! 
To satisfy your cat's desire for hunting, a great way to feed them is to make use of the “feeding toys”  or “food puzzles”. These are generally small round balls that you can place a small amount of dry food into. The cat needs to bat around the ball with their paws or push it with their head in order to roll the ball and get the pieces of food to fall out.  These are great for getting your cat a bit more active, slowing down their eating, and to simulate a hunting type situation.

Feeding meals is very important in terms of monitoring your cat's health. If you leave food out all the time it is much more difficult to know exactly how much your cat is eating, especially if you have more than one cat at home.  If you don’t know how much each cat eats it will be very difficult to change feeding amounts if you cat needs to lose weight and you may not notice if your cat goes off their food when sick.  Even if you have multiple cats you should feed a measured amount of food to each cat. The ideal is to feed each cat separately because cats are normally solitary feeders. If they eat next to one another it will increase the speed that they eat and they may feel they are in competition with one another. One cat may bully the other cat and get more than her fare share.  Feeding stations should also be away from the cat’s sleeping area and litter box. One more tip: use shallow but wide food and water dishes so your cat's whiskers don't touch the sides.  Following these guidelines is the best way to keep your cats happy at meal times!

The other really important thing I want to highlight about feeding your cat is to include wet food in the diet.  A common myth that is circulating among pet owners seems to be that wet food is not as healthy for your cat as dry food. This is not true and in fact the opposite might actually be true (though more research in this area is required).  I recommend all cats have some wet food in their diet and generally I feel it should make up at least 50% of your cat’s diet. Why is that? The main reason is because of the high water content in wet food.  As a general rule cats don’t seem to drink enough to keep themselves well hydrated. I don’t know exactly why this is. Some people speculate it could be because in the wild they would get most of their water from eating whole prey. Perhaps they prefer running water to still water in bowls?  Whatever the reason may be, we tend to see a lot of urinary tract problems in cats. In male cats we see blockages of the lower urinary tract, which can be life threatening, and in female cats we see inflamed bladders and bladder infections. In elderly cats we see a startling amount of kidney disease (could this be from chronic dehydration?).  Increasing your cat’s water intake will reduce their risk of lower urinary tract problems and help keep the kidneys in good shape.  I often add a bit of water in with Bender’s wet food so it’s a bit like a soup or stew just to get that extra bit of water into him to prevent urinary tract disease.

In addition to the high water content, wet food tends to have lower levels of carbohydrates than dry food does. Many veterinarians believe that high levels of carbohydrates in dry cat food leads to higher levels of obesity and diabetes in cats.  To be honest this is still a controversial subject due to limited amounts of research. However I can tell you that when we treat diabetic cats we always recommend a low carbohydrate and high protein food so it makes sense  (to me at least) that feeding a similar type of food could prevent diabetes from developing in the first place.

Bender waits "patiently" for his dinner
I feed Bender a two meals per day, one meal consists of wet food, (Royal Canin Feline Adult), which is formulated to prevent urine crystals from forming and helps prevent lower urinary tract blockages.  His other meal is a dry food specially formulated to help clean his teeth and gums ( Royal Canin Feline Dental).  I believe this is the best diet to keep him healthy and minimize the number of dental cleanings he will need, long into his late teens to early twenties.  I hope this was helpful! Please comment or call the clinic if you have more questions about feeding recommendations for your feline friends.

Thanks for reading!
Dr. Ingrid Sproll

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cat Corner

                  This month I wanted to write about one of my favorite topics: cats! I grew up in a home with cats and though I love dogs, cats hold a very special place in my heart.  There is nothing quite like relaxing with a cat curled up in your lap, purring away.  I have a 3 year old cat, named Bender, a brown black tabby, and he is my inspiration. My goal is to give him the best care so he lives well into his late teens or even twenties!  I thought I would share some key tips with you to help you keep your cats happy and healthy too.  

My best buddy Bender

Here is this week’s cat tip:

Cats need annual exams and vaccines just as much as dogs do
               Statistically we know that far fewer cats make it to their veterinarian for their annual check-ups when compared to their canine counterparts. Why is this? I think there are a few reasons. One may be that many cats are staying indoors so owners feel they have less of a need for vaccines.  Though keeping your cat indoors certainly decreases their risk of infectious diseases vaccines are still important for several reasons. One is that you can actually bring virus particles into your household on your clothing, meaning you cat can still get sick even when not getting outside. Another big reason I recommend vaccinations for indoor-only cats is that if they do happen to get sick, need a dental cleaning or surgery, or have an emergency and need to stay in the hospital, they will really need the protection from the vaccines.  If not they will be highly susceptible to getting an infection while in clinic. Finally some cats (like mine) are very sneaky and will sometimes dash out the door when we come home from an outing meaning that despite our best efforts they are not 100% indoor-only. 
              Another big reason I think many cats don’t make it for their annual check-up is that, let’s face it, most cats seem to hate coming to the vet clinic. In fact they seem to really hate going for car rides in general.  Owners may feel they are being mean bringing their cats somewhere they clearly do not want to go. Though it may seem difficult in the short term, in the long run it is much better for your cat to have a veterinary team familiar with their normal health, so they can pick up on when things are going wrong. A regular check-up will ensure we pick up on health problems early and make treatments easier and less costly.  There are several things you can do to make the visit to the vet easier on you and your cat. First of all help your cat get used to their cat carrier. The easiest way to do this is to leave the carrier out all the time, with a comfy pillow or blanket inside. Your cat will soon find it is a nice place to relax. You can even offer treats or special toys when you find your cat relaxing in their carrier. Your cat will then begin to associate the carrier with happy experiences and will not resist entering the carrier when you need to take him somewhere. 
               You can take a similar approach with riding in the car. Slowly get your cat used to the car. The first time you go out you can simply bring the carrier to the car and sit in the driveway. Next time try starting the car or maybe just going for a short drive around the block. Next time perhaps a longer drive. By doing this several times you cat will learn that every car ride does not inevitably end at the veterinary clinic.  If your cat will take treats while in the car it can help to develop a positive association with car rides.  If you try these techniques and your cat continues to be very stressed when visiting the veterinarian, consider asking one of our veterinary team members about using a sedative.  Due to advances in medicine in recent years we now have some very safe options for sedatives you can give at home prior to your visit. These will not interfere with the results of our physical exam and will make the visit easier on your cat and you!
Bender in clinic after having dental surgery

                An annual check-up with your veterinarian is a key component to the plan for a long healthy life for your cat. It helps us as your veterinary team to become familiar with what is normal for your cat on their physical exam .This allows us to better recognize when things start to change. We will be able to pick up on health problems and address them much earlier. In cats this is crucial as they tend to hide signs of sickness until they are very severely ill.  Don’t wait until your cat is showing signs of illness to bring them in! 

Check back on the blog in the next couple weeks for the next cat tip where I will write about one of the single most important aspects of your cat’s health: what they eat.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ingrid Sproll 
Friday, February 13, 2015

What I wish people knew about exotic pets

   At Winrose we are lucky enough to treat a large number of different animal patients, including many  exotic pets. When I say exotic pets, I'm talking about animals that are kept in a household as a companion and are not native or indigenous to the area where the owners live. In North America, specifically the Canadian prairie, this includes most reptiles, many birds and even animals like guinea pigs.  In the veterinary world we often include animals that are native to the area, such as the corn snake, in the category of exotics because there is limited information on proper care and diet for these species. This makes them exotic to us medically despite them being native to our area of the country. 

   Having an increasing exposure to exotic pet patients for several months has been an enlightening experience. I have an appreciation for the beauty and variety of animals out there and sometimes enjoy seeing them in the exam room. Unfortunately we see far too many animals in extremely poor condition leading to very frustrating and sad appointments.  That is why I am writing this article. My hope is to spread some awareness among the public as to what it takes to properly care for an exotic animal. Does it really make sense to keep these animals as pets? Read on and decide for yourself. 

  A Guniea Pig is a common, yet exotic, pet

1) Exotic pets require as much (or more) work and care than a dog or cat
There seems to be a misconception out there that if you have a small pet, that can be kept in a cage or terrarium, it will not require a large amount of work and effort to maintain. These pets include but are not limited to: rodents like guinea pigs (native to South America), birds such as Cockatiels (native to Australia), and reptiles like Bearded Dragons (native to Australia).  The idea that a small pet is easy to maintain is absolutely false. These animals are not
Domesticated like a dog or cat and are very similar to wild animals. As such in order to be healthy they need a diet and environment that matches those of their wild counter parts.

 Now try to imagine how hard it would be to recreate an arid desert or  tropical rainforest conditions in your bedroom or living room in the Canadian winter. In order to do this you need to be ready to invest in a lot of equipment: Thermometers for both sides of your enclosure, hygrometers to measure the humidity, UV A & B light to be replaced every 3-6 months, hide boxes, substrates, vegetables and insects and calcium supplements. This is just a starting list for reptiles. Some reptiles are desert dwellers (Uromastyx) others need to be in water (turtles), and still others need high humidity.  Some are tree climbers and others like to stay on the ground or undercover. 
Birds require a whole different set of equipment and need a lot of attention and time from their owners. Many bird species in the wild live in large groups and have active and complex social lives. These birds will languish when kept in a house with little or no company. They also spend large amounts of their time in the wild foraging for food and can become bored and even psychotic when they are simply given access to unlimited amounts of food with no need for foraging. 
Even if you feel very committed to providing the correct husbandry for an exotic pet keep in mind that often we do not have adequate information about what these animals eat in the wild or what they spend most of their time doing. We don't have the research available to know what we need to provide for some species, for example Mountain Horn Dragons, yet they can be found at your local pet store.

Turtles need a very specific environment to thrive

2) In exotic pets most illness and disease is related to improper care & diet
This one ties in very strongly with the first point. In the majority of sick exotic pets we see, the illness is related to improper housing or inadequate diet. For example: respiratory infections in birds are often related to low levels of Vitamin A in the diet (feeding an all seed diet does NOT provide the proper nutrition for most birds).  Low levels of humidity in certain reptiles can lead to bad sheds and loss of toes.  Excess levels of humidity in desert animals can lead to skin infections.  Reptiles require calcium supplements in their diet daily and a UV A&B lamp to help to convert the calcium into its active form inside the body. These lamps must be changed frequently. Without proper calcium levels bones become soft and deformed and reptiles can suffer from seizures and are unable to walk. Guinea pigs require a specific amount of Vitamin C in their diet or they can develop infections and scurvy. These are just a few examples. The list of husbandry related illnesses goes on and on.
Though it may seem that the care needed is very straightforward we see far too many animals suffering from these conditions.  The pet store often does not provide the proper information for care.  You cannot rely on the person you acquired the pet from to give you the right information. If you have an exotic pet your best resource for reliable information is your local exotic veterinarian. Not all veterinarians see exotic pets so its important to call around and find a clinic that does. It is also important to realize that the veterinarians that see exotics are not necessarily specialists (meaning they haven't done 4 years of school studying exclusively exotic pets) but they have learned from years of experience seeing and treating these animals and have done extensive research on their own time.  To prevent illness you need to team up with a knowledgeable veterinarian. We also want you to know that often there isn't a medication that will fix the problem. The prescription is going to involve changing the diet or environment of the pet. 

3) Exotic pets naturally hide signs of illness
            This one actually isn't limited to exotic pets, it also applies to cats and dogs to some degree. The vast majority of exotic animals are what we refer to as "prey species".  This means in nature they have predators that hunt to feed on them. If an animal in the wild shows any sign of weakness they are the most likely to be killed by a predator. As a result these animals will hide any sign of weakness.  For this reason if your exotic pet is showing you even the slightest sign of illness or odd behavior it is probably very sick.  Do NOT wait to see if it gets better on its own.  Time is of the essence if you want to have a chance of treating your sick exotic pet. It's difficult for the veterinary team to have to deliver the news that the pet is too sick at this point to recover. If your exotic pet has been acting sick for several days you should have realistic expectations about the chances for recovery. The best thing you can do is bring your pet in at the very first sign of illness.

4) Please, please, please, get your exotic pet used to being handled

This is a very big one for pet birds and small mammals (but does not apply to pet reptiles). Budgies, cockatiels, parrots, rats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and even rabbits should be handled daily. Why? One reason is that if they are not handled regularly it can be very difficult to do a full physical exam on them. They may bite and become dangerous for the staff or they can become extremely stressed from being handled during the exam if they are not accustomed to handling. In some cases, especially with birds, the stress of the exam combined with the underlying sickness is enough to kill the pet.  Regular gentle handling will reduce the overall stress of the veterinary visit.
The other reason handling is very important is that if we send a medication home to give the pet they will need to be held and handled in order to administer the medication. It will be much easier on you and your pet if the pet is held and handled frequently.

5) Breeders and Pet stores may not be selling you a healthy animal
This is a bit of common "buyer beware" wisdom.  Especially with reptiles and the more exotic species the pet store may not have provided proper care or diet. You might be purchasing an animal that already has a nutritional deficiency or is carrying a high load of parasites.  We work with several different local pet stores and though they certainly try to give the animals good care they can run into the same problem many owners do: a lack of information on proper diet and environment.  They also have to provide care for a large number of animals and many different species with limited staff. Breeders or other suppliers may not be better depending on the situation. Ask of a lot of questions from the person you are considering buying from. What are they feeding, how many animals are housed together, and have they been parasite checked are some good starting questions.  One final caution here is: consider where the animal comes from. Is it captive bred? Some reptiles such as some Chameleons and Mountain Horned Dragons are taken from the wild and exported to pet stores throughout the world. These animals tend to do very poorly in captivity and the ethics of having a wild-caught animal as a pet are questionable.

6) Think long and hard before getting an exotic pet

            Please do not get an exotic pet if any of the following applies to you:
-You don't want to or can't invest in the proper equipment
                                    -You don't have the means to pay for veterinary care
-You don't want to do extensive research on the proper diet and housing    and the social needs of the animal
-You don't have the time or energy to provide socialization for you pet bird
-You want an exotic pet because they are "cool", make good decoration, or are entertaining

            These are living animals and I believe they have the capacity to suffer when ill. I hope this article sheds some light on the challenges of owning an exotic pet. If you have an exotic pet we, as a veterinary team, want to partner with you to make sure your pet gets the best care possible. 

-Dr. Sproll at Winrose 

Thanks for reading!